Benchmark Bourbon – Review

Benchmark BourbonMcAfee’s Benchmark Old No. 8 Brand Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

80 Proof

Price Point: $20-$25 for 1.75 L

Distiller: Buffalo Trace Distillery



Because this is my first review, I wanted to choose a special whiskey.  Other bloggers would have chosen something rare, something expensive.  Something intangible for the average twenty-something whiskey drinker.

Not me.

I value whiskey for its taste, regardless of its prestige or price point.  This is precisely why I chose Benchmark, one of my personal favorites, and arguably the best value for bourbon drinkers around the world.

I was first introduced to Benchmark by my dad.  Being the whiskey (specifically bourbon) expert, he cringed at the fact that my drink of choice was a Jack & Coke.  I certainly have nothing against Jack Daniel’s (in fact I’ll be reviewing it in the coming weeks), but when that particular concoction is as far as you dive into the wonderful world of whiskey, you are truly missing out on some great experiences.

Upon trying Benchmark, mixed with a little Coke of course, I was impressed.  It had a very similar caramel-y, sugary flavor reminiscent of Jack Daniel’s, only with a little something more.  When I tried it on the rocks for the first time, I was absolutely hooked.  Benchmark was my new staple; a whiskey that was both very flavorful and very easy to drink.  When it was time for me to buy my own, I was even more pleased.  With a price point in the $20 range for a handle, how can you say no?

Two years later, I still can’t say no to Benchmark.



Benchmark’s aroma is plainly stated – perfect.  In my opinion, this is exactly how a high-quality bourbon should smell.  It is complex enough to distinguish itself from other bourbons without anything extra added on as a trademark.  This is the benchmark (pun fully intended) for all other bourbons.

The main theme with Benchmark’s taste is sweetness.  Even without a mixer, you will notice just as much sugar in Benchmark as your favorite soda.  It doesn’t overpower the taste – it’s just there to keep you interested.  Once you have the liquid in your mouth, and are savoring it for a few seconds, you’ll really notice a strong caramel taste above all else, followed by a light vanilla.

The aftertaste is just as sweet as ever, and lingers for quite some time.  But in a good way.


Rating & Recommendations

Clearly I am a fan of Benchmark.  However, because it is such an even-keeled whiskey, it’s difficult for me to give it a very high rating.  Benchmark is absolutely perfect with a mixer or as an everyday bourbon, but it’s not unique enough for a 90 rating or higher.  I rate Benchmark’s Old No. 8 brand with an 80 out of 100.

The possibilities for drinking Benchmark are wide open.  Most people will choose to mix it with Coke or Ginger Ale, which is absolutely fine, and even encouraged by me.  I prefer drinking mine with a few cubes of ice, but it’s just as enjoyable neat.

As long as you are drinking and enjoying Benchmark, you’re doing it the right way.




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    • daryl on April 27, 2012 at 11:50 pm
    • Reply

    I tried Benchmark for the first time …about 10minutes ago….this is a good tasting whiskey! I can’t wait to try it with a nice medium to full bodies cigar. Great price point !!

    More comments to come

    1. Thanks for the comment, Daryl. Benchmark is definitely a solid bourbon at a very good price point!


      1. You said that Benchmark has a sweet sugary finish, do they add sugar back into the mix?

      • Bob Quillin on June 13, 2013 at 1:22 pm
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      Great whiskey…especially for the price!

    • Mike on July 24, 2012 at 6:17 pm
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    Ryan – thanks for the review. I’ve been after this stuff for quite awhile now. I was even getting it for $14 a handle recently. Benchmark is hands downs the best every day bourbon around. Lets just try and keep it a secret! Mike

    1. $14 for a handle of Benchmark must be the deal of the year! I agree, let’s keep this our little secret…

      Thanks for the comment!


    • Joe on August 1, 2012 at 10:46 pm
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    I stopped by the New Hampshire State Liquor Store the other day as I was out of bourbon. I am also a JD fan (Jack & Diet, Jack & Water, Jack/Rocks, whatever). I have to say I went into the store willing to try something different as the price of JD has gotten out of hand…

    For some reason, this stuff jumped off the (bottom) shelf at me. The bottle is square, it says “Old No. 8” instead of “Old No. 7″…I thought it must be a JD knock off. Quick Google search on the iPhone and your review comes up. THANK YOU! $16/1.75L, out the door. Tried it last night….wow. Wow!

    I prefer Benchmark. That didn’t take long.

    It appears that this is not available in Maine yet, where I live. I hope that NH keeps it on the shelf for a long time to come!


    1. Wow, what a comment! I have to say that it brings me a considerable amount of joy that my review influenced your decision, in the store no less!

      I hope you’ll stick around and check out some more of my reviews. It seems we already have an affinity for Benchmark in common.


    2. Joe, then shop by mail if you can in your state. I am in Washington state and buy on line all the time.

    • Dan on August 13, 2012 at 3:20 pm
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    About 15 years ago my brother in law gave me bottle of Benchmark when I was visiting him in San Antonio and I loved the flavor and aroma. I live in B.C. Canada and can’t get it here. (our selection of any alcoholic beverage is very limited.) Sadly he and my sister passed, so no more Texas connection. I’ve tried Washington and Nevada (OK only in Vegas) and no luck. If my wife and I are traveling in the States, do you know which states might carry it as a usual sales item? Washington will bring it into an ABC store if one orders a case (I like it alot, but not being allowed to sell it, I’d have a great supply for too many years).
    Any thoughts?


      • Ryan on August 15, 2012 at 5:15 pm
      • Reply

      Hi Dan.

      It sounds like you are just about out of options. Living in Pennsylvania (a control state), I am all too aware of the problems of not being able to find my favorite whiskeys in stores.

      I’m really not the authority on whiskey availability by state – perhaps another commenter can chime in and help Dan out…?


      • Kentucky Jay on December 28, 2012 at 9:25 pm
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      I know I am late to this party by a few months, but if you ever pass through Kentucky, you can find Benchmark and any other Kentucky Bourbon in just about any liqour store, for much cheaper than you will find it in other states.

        • EL Cigar on March 19, 2013 at 9:33 pm
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        the owner of the party store i get my whiskey from told me about this, he said it was very good and he was selling it for under $10, tried it, loved it and have bought it since, i have recommended this to all my friends, i enjoy sipping this with a good cigar.

      • Robert B on May 4, 2017 at 6:09 pm
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      I buy mine in Kentucky and Illinois.

    • Scott on August 29, 2012 at 3:55 pm
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    Being a PLCB employee I can say for sure PA has Benchmark, it is on sale untill sept. 30th for $18.99 a handle. If you are a Benchmark fan give Buffalo Trace a try, you will be impressed.

    • Rodney on August 31, 2012 at 11:42 pm
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    Google Benchmark search got me here. This past week I was at an Italian restaurant in Glenwood Springs, CO. I am a big Makers fan, but the restaurant only had one bourbon. One I had never heard of. Benchmark. The server told me that I would probably like it. I was very skeptical, but I thought, what the heck? I prefer Makers neat every time. I drank the Benchmark the same way. I was very pleasantly surprised. Very smooth. Pretty good stuff. I will definitely look to snag a bottle if I can find it in Atlanta.

    • charles on September 11, 2012 at 7:27 pm
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    hmmm. im drinking some now. i tried it because it was cheap, and because i noticed it is distilled, bottled, and aged by Buffalo Trace. Buffalo trace is an excellent bourbon. this benchmark whiskey is, perhaps one of the better 15 dollar bourbons. it isnt great. but it is excellent for a bourbon to keep around if you are like me; i love having a drink or two at the end of the day. my favorite drink, the manhattan, just isnt very good with this whiskey. but it makes a decent old fashioned. (which is weird, considering the quality should matter just as much in an O.F. than a manhattan.) but anyway, ill buy it again. cant beat 15 bucks or so. i would rather drink my favorite Bulleit Rye, or Buffalo Trace bourbon, however i cant afford to do that every week haha.

    • civiletti on October 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm
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    Benchmark is currently my favorite cheap bourbon, supplanting Evan Williams Black. I find only one slight fault: a bit of soapiness if drunk neat. Good stuff.

    • Sam on November 16, 2012 at 9:17 pm
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    I just bought a bottle of Benchmark at the grand opening of a liquor store near me. Unbelievably, it was on sale for four dollars! Having never tried Benchmark (nor bourbon at all, for that matter), I figured I’d get on the sale while I could even though my dad, who tends to favor scotch more than anything else, sneered over its price, thinking the brand to be low quality. I have to say,though , I did enjoy it. I’m no liquor aficionado, but I really did love the aroma and smoky flavor (that’s how I’d describe it, at least) of this brand.

    I might have to head on down and buy another $4 bottle for backup.

    • VV on December 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm
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    Went to the liquor the shop, and found that my favorite JackDaniels was out of stuck. Saw benchmark bourbon on the rack, and picked it up. Guess what…….its great.. I am loving it. I am not a whiskey/wine taster who can compare flavors as combination of vanilla caramel or oranges or whatever. For me its as simple as that I like Jack Daniels because of that peculiar taste, and that similar taste, if not stronger, at very least the same is there in Benchmark Bourbon 🙂
    Do be very honest I didn’t even know what bourdon is…..yeah some people on this thread may be thinking to kill me for that….but that’s the truth. Any only today I researched on what is the procedure for a bourbon whiskey :).
    Ahh……all these experiences apart……for people reading this comment, If you are thinking to try this whiskey, go for it…you will love it. And if you like JD, you will love it.

  1. I’m a 62 year old man. I used to be a beer drinker, but don’t like how I feel after drinking a couple of bottles. Life is too short not to drink whiskey, though, and that’s what I now drink. The great thing about bourbon (and bourbon drinkiers) is that it’s a working man’s beverage. You can drink the expensive stuff, but the fun is to find good, everyday bourbon at a low price. I haven’t tried Benchmark, yet, but I definitely will when I replenish my supply. As for Jack Daniels–there are many, many better bourbons at a much better price. JD is for frat boys who believe it’s advertising.

    • Nick on December 18, 2012 at 3:55 pm
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    love this whiskey, found it a year ago or so… on the bottom shelf at a liqour store… thought to myself perfect! its cheap!!!.. and then tried it.. was so surprised, dont have the money really for expensive liqour.. but even from what ive tasted here and there, i prefer benchmark..if you are reading these reviews to see if you want to try this whiskey… do try it!

    • hilary on December 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm
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    I am actually a Jack and coke kinda girl, however I may switch to Benchmark. l tried it for the first time a couple nights ago and was very impressed. It has a bold but smooth taste which gets better with every sip. The price being $15.00 dollars cheaper than Jack just seals the deal.

    • Don on January 5, 2013 at 6:11 pm
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    I drank JD for years times got hard tried Benchmark about 18 years ago like it very much even though it is a bottom shelf whisky

    • JD on January 7, 2013 at 4:35 am
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    I live in Japan, where people really love their whiskeys. I am a father of two, though, and my disposable income is not that much in this mega-expensive country. Usually the bargain whiskeys I find smell like ethanol and taste like paint thinner (not that I’ve ever tried it… but I can imagine it!). Anyway, same story here, googled on my iPhone and saw this review, tried it and so pleased! Finally a good priced whiskey here! I read it was bought by Kirin or some Japanese company, maybe that’s why it is about the same price you’d pay in the states. SOooo happyy…..

    • Barlee on February 15, 2013 at 5:58 pm
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    I agree with all the pro Benchmark remarks. I was introduced to it by a nephew who was (like most of us) on a value budget. It looked like a JD knockoff -like EW black does- but even less expensive. Even today a 1.75 is 15.95 here in Fla. What’s MORE impressive is that it’s really a tasty bourbon. My only drawback is that I prefer the glass bottles over the plastic ones. Guess I could get a 750 (glass) for $10.00 and refill it. 🙂

      • Ryan on February 17, 2013 at 3:56 pm
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      Perhaps the plastic bottle is how they keep it so cheap? 🙂


    • Nickie on February 17, 2013 at 7:35 pm
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    I live in Northeast Texas and many years ago a friend of mine told me about Benchmark. He said it was a fine whiskey and I needed to try it. I did and loved the taste. This is very good whiskey. I have been drinking it for over 25 years and have found not better including all of the famous brands. Keep making it; you make a very good product. Thanks a lot. N

    • Val on February 22, 2013 at 6:43 pm
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    saw it on sale and read your review – WOW what a value !
    Really nice taste….

    Austin, TX

    • Kentucky man on March 12, 2013 at 7:55 pm
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    Kentucky Man living out in Colorado here. For the record I’m a Bulliet or Eagle Rare kind of guy. Saw a bottle of benchmark for sale this afternoon out my neighborhood liquor store and at first scoffed at the price, thinking it to be just another cheap bourbon, but then noticed it was distilled by Buffalo Trace, and damn son, they make soime fine bourbons. So I gave it a try.

    Best damn 10$ bottle of bourbon I’ve ever tasted. I’d say it’s on par with Jim Beam Black and give a slight edge to Makers. I’ve just imbibed two neats and I’m sold.

    Tastes like a 25$ – 35$ bourbon. Smooth hints of honey, and orange spice with just the right amount of bite. I like it a lot, give it an A+++ for the price.

    • Randy Lahey on March 21, 2013 at 11:22 pm
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    Just picked it up in Illinois:) $10.00 for a glass fifth. Very good. I have been drinking Evan Williams and Dickel for a while now. This blows them out of the water on price and taste. I drink it neat with a Rolling Rock for an occasional chaser. Big thumbs up over here.

    • Joe M. on March 22, 2013 at 11:13 pm
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    In order of price, Jim Beam, Evan Williams and Benchmark (13.99-8.99/750 ml.) I’m not a connoisseur of bourbons by any means but for the price Benchmark is not a bad choice.

    • Jim on April 23, 2013 at 10:14 pm
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    Thanks for the review and agree with you. I just discovered “Beanchmark” while in Florida for the Winter. $14 + there. When I came home to Tennessee I went out in search of it and was able to find it with no trouble 1.75ml. $19.90 tax included.
    Love the slight sweetness and smoothest finish I ever saw. No burn just taste. No more Red Wax for me.

    • JD on May 3, 2013 at 5:47 pm
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    Came across you review and want to share a story with you about Benchmark. Thanksgiving night a few years ago I had a 1/5 of Benchmark and told a friend I was hanging with I would share with him. He talked bad about it but tried it. Kept talking bad about it but kept drinking it. We killed it in a couple hours and he was still talking bad about it. It is now his whiskey of choice!

    • Bobbo on May 8, 2013 at 7:48 pm
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    Just picked up a 750ml bottle for $10.99 in North Texas–thought I’d look it up, and saw your review. Very good stuff for the price–and NOT “grain neutral spirits,” like KD or any of the other “brown vodka” fake whiskeys out there.

    Heck, for ANY price, this is a well-made, very nice flavorful bourbon. I’m impressed.

    • Margaret on May 9, 2013 at 8:24 pm
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    I’m typically a jack and coke kinda girl but I tried benchmark for the first time last week and unfortunately didnt have any coke around, but that didnt matter. It has a great taste on its own. As a typical college student, with little extra cash, Jack Daniels is out of the question. This is a great substitute!

    • brad on October 28, 2013 at 1:26 pm
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    Enjoying this daily with apple juice…damn good drinking hooch! 18 bucks at the drug store in FL

    • Arsenal_fan on November 21, 2013 at 11:38 pm
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    Bought this for $11 in Texas & taste first time & its taste is very fresh,sparkling & awesome with Coke..its pure bang for buckss.. guys do try it 🙂

    • Rickster on December 11, 2013 at 11:48 pm
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    I had always been an Old Charter bourbon drinker. But when I was living in East Texas I ran out and had to go to the liquor store down the road. I went in to pick up my old charter and saw a sign that said “Tastes like Old Charter but half the price.”. I asked the clerk if it was true, and he told me if you don’t like it you can bring back the bottle half empty and I will refund your money. With an offer like that I could not resist. To make a long story short I have never bought another bottle of Old Charter and I cannot tell you how many bottles of Benchmark that I have purchased over the last 15 years. And I have recommended it to numerous friends and they all are amazed at how good it is especially for the price.

    • Nick Cee on January 13, 2014 at 5:45 pm
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    In my strongest opinion, if you pay $20 for Benchmark, you are paying $20 for the wrong bourbon. I agree with your review but when I am mixing large amounts of Manhattans and “Whiskey Sours” for one of my parties, I try to keep the 750 ML at sub-$12. I get Benchmark and Rebel Yell for sub $12 in my area and it works. Benchmark is the choice if $12 or less. Want the secret of the century?: I used to pay $60/bottle for my bourbon THEN I SAW THE LIGHT. I am actually a huge fan of Old Grand Dad Bonded 100 proof. I pour it into a special old bottle from the 1800s and tell people it’s a “special batch” (and not another word). Massive praise from the straight drinkers, no complaints from the mixed drink guys, and light on me pocketbook.

      • Ryan on January 14, 2014 at 7:52 am
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      Thanks for the comment, Nick. Please note in the review that $20 – $25 is the range for 1.75 L, not 750 mL.


    • Douglas Pugh on January 14, 2014 at 4:37 pm
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    Benchmark has been at my house for years. I use to buy Jim Beam. But one day I tried Benchmark and it has the flavor I love when mixed with Coke. It’s a Great Whiskey.

      • Chris Posey on January 15, 2014 at 7:03 pm
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      I also was just a jim beam drinker went to my wifes bar she tricked me with there house bourbon could not tell then she told me it was benchmark it was $2 during happy hour. Benchmark is my drink of choice now!!!!!!

    • G. Robert on February 2, 2014 at 7:46 pm
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    I bought Benchmark Old No. 8 at the liquor store when my wife wanted to try making “bourbon chicken”. It was the cheapest bourbon in the store and was offereing a $3 rebate. The attempt at bourbon chicken was a bust and the bottle sat up on the back of the kitchen pantry shelf for two years. One day when I ran out of my regular brand I tried some Benchmark and was shocked by how smooth it was and how good it tasted. I was ashamed to admit to anyone that I liked this “cheap” whiskey but the more I drank it the more attached I became. After reading reviews on-line by people that know good bourbon whiskey I feel vindicated in my fondness for Old No. 8.

    • C. Mader on May 15, 2014 at 10:44 am
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    You can find it in North Carolina, at least in Wake County, that is; that’s the Raleigh-area, where I live.

    • Percy on October 22, 2014 at 10:57 am
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    Enjoy this with small sips. It makes a stout Old Fashioned. This is a great value in an inexpensive bourbon. I would not care to compare it with any other bourbon. This could be the best kept secret in Bourbon Whiskey.

    • Ron Boman on November 16, 2014 at 10:31 am
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    In Thailand, Jack is $50 a liter so I noticed Benchmark at the grocery store. At only $20 a liter I decided to give it a try. It’s GREAT. Hope I can find it when I get back to the states.

    • Swapnil on December 1, 2014 at 10:43 am
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    I got it for same price as jim beam 2500 dollars in India … It’s ok .. Nt not a great drink.. Very sweet

    • Dave on December 21, 2014 at 6:25 pm
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    I Just tried some Benchmark peach flavored Burbon for the first time and it is fantastic on ice

    • keith on January 17, 2015 at 4:08 am
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    No snob here , but what have you all been drinking that makes this taste good? You cant even mix this for rail drinks. We might serve this after everybody is drunk enough not to care.

    • Joe Ross on January 30, 2015 at 6:19 pm
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    Keith makes a valid point. Some whiskey drinkers like the burn of the highly marketed varieties. An equally valid point of view is that a considerable cross-section of Bourbon aficionados seek the smooth and caramel-rich flavor of the rye recipe BENCHMARK. Good rule of thumb: follow your individual taste; not the masses.

    • joelynnross on January 30, 2015 at 7:13 pm
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    Some like the burn. For others, the smooth, mellow, slightly burnt caramel is more than meomorable.

    • Carl on March 9, 2015 at 12:09 am
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    About 60 years ago I was returning to the states from my second cruise in the Gulf of Tonkin ( Nam). I had just got off the 8-12 watch, taken my shower and headed for my bunk. The captain walked into Chief’s quarters with two glasses in his hand and asked if I had anything to drink. I told him that I had nothing. With that he whipped out a bottle and asked if I would share some of his, to which I readily agreed. He poured a generous amount and I was introduced to the finest Kentucky bourbon I have tasted! It was Benchmark ! That was the first and last time for me to taste such a supremely smooth and delightful elixer as that. I have been searching for it for over 60 years in 10 different states. This evening my son suggested that I look on line, which I had done before, but I happened upon this page. Now that I know that it is still made l’ll redouble my efforts. Thank you very much.

    • mark on July 17, 2015 at 6:10 pm
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    Very tasty indeed . Only had a small display of the mini airplane bottles . Now if I can just find a big bottle. Wichita, everything you want as long as you want to order it online .

    • Terry on October 25, 2015 at 12:13 pm
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    I have been drinking Evan Williams Black Label for over twenty years with tastings of other brands this last year; most have been rejected. Clearly I like the EW bourbon profile.

    I read a few good reviews of Benchmark 8 and decided to try it. The nose is better than most other brands I have tried – better than Jim Beam, Evan Williams 1783, Old Crow, Ancient Age and a few others. I hate the solvent/alcohol smell that is noticeable with some brands, which Benchmark did not have.

    While not as complex as some bourbons, not having unique or unusual favors, it has a consistently reliable and well rounded southern bourbon nose and taste that is simply delicious. It is sweet, but not too much; you pick up caramel, vanilla, honey and fruit, maybe a hint of orange peel. Oak comes in on the palette along with a hint of cherry and the preceding nose caramel. With some water, there is no strong burn, just a long warm finish, without bitterness.

    Based on my preferences and experiences, upon which all tastings depend, I would rate this at a solid 87; a definite buy and try. This whisky has won two golds in SF, Wine Enthusiast gave it a 90, and many other reviewers give it good marks, including Ralph, who gave it an 87. I bought a bottle for around $12 and am headed back for more before they change their minds.

    • larry on November 21, 2015 at 6:11 pm
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    For under $10 a fifth Benchmark is a gr8 Kentucky bourbon that mixes well with Coke besides being awesome straight up

    • LM on November 30, 2015 at 2:34 pm
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    I pay $15.99 @ Twin Liquors in San Antonio for 1.75! A couple of years ago I could get 2 bottles and a 2 liter coke for about $27. I switched to Benchmark 8 when the glass bottles of Weller got too heavy for me.

    • Stan Allen on December 11, 2015 at 6:09 pm
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    • Lewis Green on April 29, 2016 at 3:17 pm
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    Thanks Ryan… good review. I am a Jack Daniels man, and have been for decades. However, now that I am on a fixed income, I can only afford Jack about every three months. I mentioned that to my guy at the liquor store and he encouraged me to dry Benchmark. I totally agree that as economical bourbon whiskeys go, one cannot do much better than Benchmark. But I don’t think it is comparable to Jack in any way. And I do look forward to my every three month purchase of Jack.

    • Most Worshipful Rick Nation on November 25, 2016 at 10:01 pm
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    The secret is out I guess. I’ve been drinking benchmark for years. Here in Kentucky it is getting harder and harder to find. Most stores are regularly out of it. Just a matter of time before buffalo trace increases the price.

    • Red on June 20, 2017 at 8:46 pm
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    My Dad introduced me to this 40yrs ago. He bought it in Illinois and I can now get it in Indiana. Not many people know about it…. Great price and smooth! On the rocks or a splash of H2O.

    • Jaime diaz on July 5, 2017 at 5:05 pm
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    Hola amigo, mi nombre es Jaime Diaz, soy chileno y quiero dar mi opinión, Benchmark lo vengo bebiendo desde hace un año y la verdad no me cambio, se lo he recomendado a mis amigos, grandes bebedores de jim beam y más que por su precio se cambiaron por el sabor muy agradable al paladar.

      • Cristian on September 1, 2017 at 8:17 pm
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      Hola Jaime…como ya cuesta encontrar Jim Bean encontré este bourbon en el Lider a buen precio…así que hoy vamos a ver que tal. Creo que por los comentarios no me arrepentiré. Salud!!

    • KR on October 6, 2017 at 9:27 am
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    Recently re-visited this brand after several years of neglect and forgot how good it was. I’m a big fan of Heaven Hill brands but Benchmark is an excellent alternative. As an advocate of budget brands I highly recommend it.

    • Kraig on September 9, 2018 at 6:16 pm
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    Benchmark has been my go to bourbon for many years. The flavor is unique and not your run of the mill budget bourbon. If only BT would consider a bottled in bond version of this great whiskey. That would be the bourbon release of the year.

    • Fez on February 28, 2020 at 7:22 pm
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    Currently working my way through a Drinks by the Dram bourbon advent calendar… this is, cent for cent, holding its own with the more expensive brands. Always neat and at room temperature, regardless of brand or price, it’s the best way to get a feel for what they’re trying to achieve. Nice one!

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